Autism has brought about a level of stress and frustration to my household that I never thought possible when me and my wife first had the discussion of 'making babies' but we went ahead and did what lovers do, 3 children later.
We had no idea that our second and third children would be on the spectrum (we didn't even really know what 'the spectrum' was at that time....we do now)
So time is moving on and we notice that the things we thought we'd be doing as a couple/family has not exactly met our expectations. But throughout the development and discovery of our two boys ASD diagnosis and the understanding of how they are, We have adapted our relationship with each other to both care for the children and each other.
We have made some changes in ideas, and compromised what is decent alone time.
Throughout all the struggles and stresses we have remained a very loving partnership (arguments over who's turn it is to get up at 02;35 to try and settle down our son don't count)
This is a list of some things that I think have helped me and my wife maintain a loving (romantic..ish) life.
1. Expectation - Whatever you think you wanted from a romantic night together with your partner, forget it, and just enjoy the fact that you're not on clean up duty (even if you are just watching crap tv together on the sofa)
2. Alone time - unless your children are at school or 'definitely' sleeping in bed, then don't even bother. But if they are then this is the perfect time for you as a couple to do what you've been dreaming all week for.....NOTHING and that's fine.
3. Onesies - Not a personal favourite of mine, but at the end of a day fighting and battling with getting dressed, and dinner, and ignoring stupid comments from strangers, This is what she needs to feel 'Aaahh relaxed and happy'
4. Compliments - no matter how small or insignificant you think things might be, Always say to them how well they did and how proud you are of them for doing it. i;e I love the way you managed to clean that one corner today, or, Thank you for letting me sleep in today. (the big compliments will be better received when you notice the little things)
5. Effort - even if all it is a touch of eye liner and wearing matching socks! these are the things that let you know they are not dressing for the kids.and should not go unnoticed!
6. Conversation - anything that can not involve autism is a winner (we recently had an amazing sharing of minds over the best recipe for cottage pie) It may seem silly, but it let's you know that that you're still human.
7. Taking turns - Set down a basic rule that taking turns is natural thus avoiding the 'It's your turn' battle. Fair is fair.
8. Baby sitters - A mystery to most parents of autistic children, But if you find that ONE person who you can call upon (Grandma, sister, friend, whoever) then this should be treated as a special occasion indeed. this where you can go out, or maybe just know that you both can sleep in.
9. Humour - Finding the funny side of your day is probably the most important thing to stop you both from gong insane.
10. SEX - yes, you read it right, It doesn't matter if it's a middle of the night silent entanglement or an all out screaming shouting (the kids are asleep aren't they) letting go of tensions. this probably the thing that lets couples know that they are more than just parents, and that they are in fact lovers in a relationship with each other. and that they still enjoy each over for them! and not just for what they are as parents.
(this list may be adapted for all parents, but for my experiences it is the way I maintain my loving relationship with my wife and balancing that with raising autistic children)